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Pocketmags Digital Magazines
Pocketmags Digital Magazines

How do we look?

Our ideal of the body beautiful was defined by the Ancient Greeks—but other cultures had very different ideas
a basalt Olmec head of Villahermosa;

In Villahermosa in southern Mexico—in an archaeological park that is disconcertingly paired with a zoo—stands a colossal severed head. It is a couple of metres high and made from basalt, one of seventeen or so such heads produced some 3,000 years ago by the earliest known civilisation in central America. We now call this civilisation “the Olmec,” but the name dates from the Aztec period, a millennium or more later. What they called themselves we have no clue.

What the heads were—what they were for—is just as much of a mystery. What do they represent: human beings or gods?

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About Prospect Magazine

In Prospect’s March issue: A series of writers turn their thoughts to the developing war over words in the UK and the US. Lionel Shriver, Afua Hirsch, Simon Lancaster, Hugh Tomlinson, Tom Clark and two students ask if free expression is truly compromised? What’s really going on in our universities? And what do voters think? Elsewhere in the issue: Michael Ignatieff questions why today’s left-wing leaders can’t live up to the high mark set by FDR, Sameer Rahim shows how western powers have been trying to dictate what Islam should be, and Mary Beard asks “How do we look?” as our perceptions of what is beautiful have changes over the centuries.